by Baron Hill
While national Democrats made significant election gains this year – taking over the US House of Representatives, winning most Governor Seats, and winning more than 300 state legislative seats – Indiana Democrats did not fare so well.
The US Senate race was not close, even though the polls before the election predicted a barn burner. No Democrats challenging Republicans won their US House of Representatives race even though Democrats in some cases raised more money than their Republican opponents. Clearly, the national results were a rejection of Trump even though the US Senate remained Republican. The map for Democrats there was not good this year, so Democrats actually did well by not losing more than they did. But here in Indiana, it was a disappointing year. So what are Indiana Democrats to do? Are we done, cooked, finished? – HELL NO
First, leaders of the Indiana Democrat party need to have an authentic and critical conversation about who we are, what we stand for and what needs to be done. – a political autopsy if you will. Included in this conversation should be some of the Indiana winners in this latest election.
What, you say? Did we win some races? Yes, we did. Four pickups in the Indiana General Assembly, including the first openly gay Senator – JD Ford. These winners know a thing or two about winning in conservative Indiana and remaining true to their Democratic values. Their input is important.
Second, we need a consistent message that voters can relate to. I believe that one of our problems in messaging is our diversity. Now before my Democratic friends start yelling and screaming for saying this, let me say that I am proud of our diversity. It is a very good thing.
What I am saying is that it is hard to break through with a consistent message when we have such a big tent that is inclusive. It is clear to me that we need to hear from all our inclusive friends to develop the right message that becomes a clear pathway to a better and more prosperous Indiana for all Hoosiers. Whether you are black, white, red or yellow, male or female, gay or not, we all have shared interests and values.
Third, we need to do the hard work political parties are used to doing – only we need to step it up to a higher level. One of my favorite sayings is “Early to bed and early to rise, work like hell and organize”. Recruiting good candidates, registering new voters, and RAISING THE MONEY so that we can deliver the message. These things are time-consuming and hard but fundamentally important. Nothing worthwhile comes easy and winning in Indiana again is worthwhile.
Having a vibrant, robust two-party system is worthwhile. One party rule invites arrogance and corruption and is not good for our state. Issues such as health care, public education, funding for our roads and bridges, the opioid crisis, public health, fiscal responsibility and yes, diversity and inclusion are better served when another point of view is heard. This can happen only when Democrats are heard too.
So what are Democrats to do in Indiana? – MATTER!! We have done it before and we can do it again. Back in the mid 80’s I was a member of the Indiana House of Representatives. Our leader, Mike Phillips, appointed me to be the House Democrat election committee chairman. At that time we had 38 members in the House. Sort of like where we are now. We set a goal of picking up 7 seats to reach 45. People laughed and said gerrymandering would make that impossible.
Well, we didn’t pick up 7 seats, we picked up 10 and got to 48. Then later we got the majority. And then Evan Bayh got elected and then Frank O’Bannon. And then……We were in positions of making a difference for a very long time. It can be done. Don’t think for a minute it can’t.
Baron Hill is a former Congressman.